Vuelta a España Teams Preview
Coming without the ambitions that would come from their young prodigy, Lotto Soudal is coming with the ambitions to take stage wins at the start, nothing else, and with the absence of their man classics man and sprinter there is a big opportunity given to some youngsters as Carlf Frederik Hagen, Harm Vanhoucke and Brian van Goethen are set to debut on a Grand Tour. The team's biggest man is Thomas de Gendt which curiously is the sole rider that's starting all the Grands this year, and he is coming with the clear goal of taking another stage win in the race, and with a big amount of rolling hilly stages he may very well get another one. On the other hand are three riders who have won here in the last two years, Sander Armée, Tomasz Marczynski and Jelle Wallays which will aswell be on the battle for those escapes, and finishing up the squad is Tosh van der Sande who has won his last completed race day in Wallonie's Mur de Thuin, he should be a good option for the smal hilltop finishes in the race so it's a well balanced team that comes without much pressure but has the quality to get a couple of wins.
The nation's sole WorldTour team is coming with big ambitions as every year, although this year they may be even bigger than usual. The multi-leader aproach to a Grand Tour is no surprise, surprise would be otherwise though at this point, but that's what they have said and honestly I think they know best in having Richard Carapaz coming into lead. It must be a bluff, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde are legitimate GT contenders on their own but to have them fight for the win isn't the most realistic when with the Equatorian it's a reality, Giro winner back in May, he's done the same double last year and showed the consistency needed, and this year he has shown to be one of the single best climbers in the world. The ambitions couldn't be less than to win the race with such team, that not only includes that trio but a Marc Soler who was finally showing his best legs in the Tour's final week and I suspect will have his form just dialed for the Vuelta and also Antonio Pedrero who has been one of the team's breakthroughs this year. Adding to them there's Jorge Arcas for further support, and as in the Tour Nelson Oliveira and Imanol Erviti to lead them through the transitional stages and help whenever needed. It's a very well-rounded team and it's a team set to come fight for the top step.
At the moment I'm posting this however, it's rumoured that Carapaz had a crash whilst training, it is insure wether he will start the race and what his injuries are.
Next is the only team that's had a man on the podium of both Grand Tours so far and the expectation is that the story repeats itself here. They come with a full-on climbing team, lead by Primoz Roglic who's had an amazing season so far and Steven Kruijswijk who just came from a third place in the Tour. It is the other team that right from the gun has the maximum contender for the win in Roglic, and a lot of it is due to the presence of a very strong support team behind the both of them, with George Bennett who came straight from the Tour, team captain, also straight from a Tour he had to abandon before scheduled, Tony Martin, and then a duo of Dutch with Robert Gesink who is making his GT debut of the season after a crash put him off the Giro and Lennard Hofstede, and the Americans, Sepp Kuss who had a breakthrough Tour of Utah last season but has since struggled to find that form (will be a real force if he does find it here) and Neilson Powless who has gone under the radar since joining the WorldTour but is one of the biggest potential future GC contenders, and is making his debut in the three-week calendar.
AG2R La Mondiale
AG2R have had a rough season so far, their squad isn't top notch and their leaders have been hindered by bad luck or just apparent lack of form. One of those was Pierre Latour who was without racing from February to early June due to a broken wrist. He made his comeback before the Tour but the team opted to leave him out as he still had to build form and in Pologne he looked sharp, and it's not only a perfect indicator it's also a one step back two steps forward situation as there are a lot of big figures missing from the race and Latour may actually find his spot well above the general expected. If so he has the support of François Bidard who had a great Giro this year and Geoffrey Bouchard mainly in the mountains, and the team then comes with a lot of names for stage hunting in Dorian Godon and Quentin Jauregi for the hilly stages alongside Silvan Dillier who may be road captain, Clément Chevrier and sprinter Clément Venturini who is set to give it a shot in the fast finishes.
Astana Pro Team
Astana is likely the only other team besides Jumbo and Movistar that comes with the ambition towin the race. It is a classic Astana team, a lot of depth and strenght throughout the whole team, the team's premier climber is giving the Vuelta another shot and he comes with the motivation after what's been a season of ups and downs so far. He has with him Ion Izagirre who's been riding with him for a lot of the season so far, surprisingly Jakob Fuglsang after he had to abandon the Tour due to a crash who will be a joker, he will likely not be in the run for the GC but you can't discount him until he looses time and even if he does he may be a vital card for the Colombian. Also the other Izagirre, Gorka, will be present alongside fellow Spaniards Luis Leon Sanchez and Omar Fraile. Furtherwise there is Giro stage winner Dario Cataldo and Manuele Boaro. It's a team that not only has a legitimate contender for the win but backups, and in the bigger picture lots of riders that can get stage wins and fight for secondary classifications.
Bahrain has had very different Grand Tours so far. In the Giro Nibali was second with the support of Caruso and Pozzovivo, the previous two went for the Tour to fight for stage wins (which Nibali did end up getting one) which wasn't exactly the most logical option, as Dylan Teuns and Rohan Dennis went for stage wins aswell, whilst Dennis abandoned and hasn't raced since Dylan Teuns won on La Planche des Belles Filles, and here he leads the team and should in theory be targeting the same. Mark Padun is a joker, he's won Adriatica Ionica last month and there's some expectations as to wether he will want to fight for the GC or not after the team's option Pozzovivo is missing the race after being hit by a car in training. Besides those there's Hermann Pernsteiner and Slovenian national champion Domen Novak for the mountaineous stages, and on the other side there's Phil Bauhaus who will be contending the flat sprints, he has with him Heinrich Haussler, Luka Pibernik and Yukiya Arashiro who will be assisting on those finishes.
BORA - hansgrohe
Bora, as they did in the Giro and in the Tour, I should mention quite successfuly, are coming with a team focused on two leaders for different terrains. Whilst in the climbing field Rafal Majka comes as leader, despite having Davide Formolo in the team the two have raced together a lot this season and seem to compliment each other quite well, they will be supported by the Austrian breakthrough duo Felix Grossschartner, Tour of Turkey winner and Gregor Muhlberger who is coming from a strong Dauphiné/Tour combo, and they will have further support of Polish climber Pawel Poljanski. And on the other side is Sam Bennett who has been a dominant force in the sprints this season, he just won three stages in the BinckBank Tour without a leadout essentially and it was an experiment the team is apparently pleased with, Bennett will come with the support of only two riders of the speciality with Jempy Drucker and Shane Archbold to support and position him throughout the finishes that matter the most to him, likely the fastest sprinter in the race and he should fancy the little hills as he has the ability to go over them.
As much of the season so far it isn't a surprise to see that CCC's squad is mostly a built around the quest of getting an elusive stage win. In that there are some candidates and we should be focusing more on the sprinters, or should I saw puncheurs almost. Patrick Bevin in fact fits almost all standards, his sprinting is good specially for this type of hard stages that come often, his time-trialing and climbing are also very good, but he's been heavily struck by crashes this season and first step is to make sure that doesn't affect him. Jonas Koch is a very consistent punchy sprinter who will also fancy the roughness of the Spanish roads and Szymon Sajnok is a further outsider option for the fastest of finishes. Victor de la Parte has been having a good season, I wouldn't be surprised to see him targeting a GC tilt but I'm more leaned towards some breakaways, and the rest of the team should do the same although it is a core of powerful riders who are jokers for flat stages aswell, in Pawel Bernas, Will Barta, Francisco Ventoso and Nathan van Hooydonck.
Deceuninck - Quickstep
The most winning team of the season so far, 55 and counting and here it is expected nothing but a rise in that number. Leading the team, if we can call it that is Fabio Jakobsen, the young Dutch sprinter who is making his first appearance in a Grand Tour. Whilst only his first he's coming with a golden leadout made out of Max Richeze, the two classics men who will likely be targeting the punchy finishes and breakaways on hilly days Zdenek Stybar and Phillipe Gilbert and two of the team's powerhouses Rémi Cavagna and Tim Declercq. It is a major leadout definetely, but also a lot of horsepower to chase breakaways which is expected as the team comes with lots of riders for the job, and the only one who's ambitions are far from the fast finishes is James Knox who debuted in the Giro this season but was put off by a crash but is looking for redemption after having a set of breakthrough performances early in the season. He may be looking for a GC tilt or stage wins, but either way he's one of the youngsters to look for in the race.
Groupama - FDJ
Groupama have had the worst of stories to tell in the Grand Tours this year. The Giro will forever be marked by the team's strategy to chase down unsuccessfully a breakaway that has caused Démare to loose the Maglia Ciclamino, but it didn't come close to the disaster that was Thibaut Pinot's injury during the Tour when it looked as if everything was going (almost) perfect, he was looking in the very least to be in the fight for the win. Looking to put those days behind, the team is coming with much lesser goals and pressure into the race. Marc Sarreau is likely their best chance of a stage win as an up-and-coming sprinter, with Benjamin Thomas, Mickael Delage and Romain Seigle they should have a solid core to support him in the fast finishes, alongside Tobias Ludvigsson who may be in more for the breakaways as will pretty much the remainder of the team, with veteran Steve Morabito and Kilian Frankiny leading the Swiss armada into the race.
Mitchelton - Scott
Unlike the previous two Grand Tours Mitchelton is another team coming with lesser goals. Both the previous had unsuccessful tilts as the Yates struggled to find the right form in their respective goals, however the Tour's amount of stage wins as Yates finally found his great form and Impey/Trentin got two more wins. Here they may come with similar targets and realistically getting to that amount of wins isn't an impossible goal although obviously a hard one, Esteban Chaves is the team's GC contender it seems but he is far from his best days, in fact his biggest success and only one really came in a breakaway win in the Giro, as since 2017 he's been struggling with injuries and ilnesses that have been hindering him. Mikel Nieve is maybe a safer bet but he is likely with the intent of coming for wins and possibly the KOM jersey, with a big history in the race and his best legs far from being in the distance he's a good call, and with Tsgabu Grmay, Damien Howson and Nick Schultz there is room to adventure in the hard stages. As for the fast ones the Luka Mezgec and Dion Smith duo is a very good one specially for the harder sprints, both can climb very well and have the punchyness needed to get over some rough terrain, on that side there is also Sam Bewley who may act as a leadout and also road captain for the leaders if such is needed.
Team Dimension Data
Dimension Data, well their season has been marked more over pseudo-controversies such as Cavendish's non-Tour than the results per say, but the truth is in the last few weeks some riders in the team have shown great form as Nizzolo in Burgos, a ressurection of Michael Valgren in BinckBank and a surprisingly impressive Cummings in Norway. Those names aren't present here but they have sparked some competitiveness into the team hopefully, and another one of those riders is Amanuel Ghebreigzhabier who was recently sixth in Burgos and comes in great form for the race. The leaders for the mountains should in theory be Ben O'Connor and Louis Meintjes but seeing how their season's have been. The squad's leader should be Edvald Boasson Hagen where their chances reside the most, he's got three wins this season so he's not to discount, good for the punchy finishes and hilly stages, he's coming with the young Rasmus Tiller and South Africans Jaco Venter and Nicolas Dlamini as the main men for the fast terrain. Finally there's also Ben King, a bit of a joker as he is far from a top rider but last year he stormed through the Vuelta by taking a pair of stage wins, he should logically target for the same this year and it can't be discounted if he finds those legs again.
EF Education First
EF come with one of the most interesting teams in the race, where should I start? Well by Rigoberto Uran, designated team leader after coming from a very race-deprived season and a solid 7th place at the Tour. Perhaps experience is what gives him the leader status, he's a very good rider but there seems to be some confusion in every name that follows. First there's Hugh Carthy, who would seem the legit option but the team hasn't spoken about him as a leader, and although that might change it's not the best aproach for a race like this where the team is full of sub-leaders. Another one is Daniel Martinez, who after a crash put him off the Tour he looked to be heading very well into the Vuelta until... He got sick before the Tour of Utah. Now he hasn't had a proper race day since Romandie, going into the race very undercooked so it will be hard for him to adapt, and then there's Sergio Higuita who was a surprise in the team has the previous plan was to have him ease into the team and debut only next year, his potential is enormous, his legs are very good for the race but no-one really knows what he can do, not even himself and his role in the team at this point doesn't look close to set. Minding the surprising absence of Joe Dombrowski who would seem a logic choice due to his current form and quality in going through three weeks, the team has chosen to bring Tejay van Garderen, and a very strong Lawson Craddock who has proven to be in maiden form for the race. The two riders making the final selection were also Logan Owen and Mitch Docker, set to guide the leaders through the flat stages.
Team Katusha Alpecin
Katusha are coming with a team that is well the face of their season, very below what's needed for success pretty much. Not with any hate, in fact I am a fan of the team, they have made a big investment in talents in the last few years and this is the face of it as there are four Grand Tour debutants in the team in Willie Smit, Matteo Fabro, Steff Cras and promising puncheur Ruben Guerreiro. It's a test for them in a new situation, and with them are some riders with a lot of experience in the game with Daniel Navarro returning after what was looking like a strong Giro until he abandoned, and whilst those will be targeting the harder stages Enrico Battaglin should focus on the easier, despite being quite a good puncheur to his name, he comes with Russian duo Viacheslav Kuznetsov and Pavel Kochetkov as support for those stages. One that will be targeting the breakaways and will have chances as they come free of pressure, they just have to play their cards well in order to try and compensate a bit for the lack of results this year.
INEOS. The very presence of the name (as was with Sky) gives a sense of domination coming into Grand Tours, it is in fact the team that most thrives in them and most riders develops in that sense, however as it was the case in the Giro after Bernal's forced withdrawl they come into the Vuelta with a bit of a shared leadership and experimentation. Although, it isn't quite that, Tao Geogheghan Hart may be the leader but he is far from a rookie at this point, and the rest of the riders coming in have a lot of experience so he is actually with a very full team to back him and Wout Poels up. Kenny Elissonde and Sebastian Henao for a start are the names that should be focusing on the hard stages, pure climbers they will be the main support in that terrain, and unlike the usual the team is coming with a sprinter, Owain Doull who isn't exactly a pure sprinter but he's one for the faster finishes and after seeing Vasil Kiryenka ride the last few weeks he is in quite some form to be able to help in those finishes. And the two remaining riders will do the same but are two more road captains, in Ian Stannard and Salvatore Puccio there is a lot of firepower to guide their leaders throughout the race.
Sunweb, a team that has been having a very bad season let's be honest. But bad luck as been one of the main reasons with Tom Dumoulin crashing out of the Giro and pretty much missing the remainder of the season with a knee injury. At this point it's about trying to salvage something, and this Vuelta is one of the best opportunities. For the fast sprints there's a rider that stands out, Max Walscheid but he will heavily struggle from the dificulties in the race so his opportunities won't be aplenty, he has Nikias Arndt and Casper Pedersen with him but most of the team is focused on the hillier terrain. Despite not having a good season it's fair to say Wilco Kelderman is the leader, but in reality he shouldn't be in for the GC fight, instead stage wins. And with him is Nicolas Roche who had a strong Tour and is a long-standing Vuelta lover, Martijn Tusveld and Australians Michael Storer and Robert Power are outsider for those hilly and mountainous stages breakaways.
Trek - Segafredo
Trek is a team that's actually had one of the more positive GT runs this year and Giulio Ciccone was a lot of the reason for it. For this Vuelta they are coming with a squad far from their best that leaves a bit to desire, as their main aim by the looks of things will be the sprints where they have Edward Theuns who should be a good name for the more punchy sprints but also John Degenkolb, with them will be Alex Kirsch as the main guide through those tricky stages. They seemed to have gotten their climbing bulk racing in Utah as a final preparation, coming from that race are Niklas Eg and Peter Stetina who looked solid, the team's new member Jacopo Mosca and also Kiel Reijnen. Completing the squad is Gianluca Brambilla who has come from Pologne but has endured a tough season so far with few results to show for.
UAE - Team Emirates
And the final WorldTour team is UAE, they had an amazing Giro despite a very modest squad and in the Tour it was the exact opposite. What to take from that isn't any indicator for the Vuelta, there is a strong squad coming in as Fernando Gaviria leads the team's sprinting ambitions with Juan Sebastian Molano to lead him out, but also Marco Marcato and Oliviero Troia for further support. However the main figure is Tadej Pogacar, one of the biggest talents of the upcoming generation, he is the youngest rider on the startlist but he comes with ambitions, I hope at least. His season has been nothing but impressive and he can very well come as the team's GC ambition after some big results this year, seeing Fabio Aru has been struggling for form, this may be the race he finds it but it's not easy to foresee that, the two of them are jokers for the GC at this point. They have Sergio Henao and Valerio Conti for support, but again, as in the Tour, they are more stage hunters than domestiques so it's no exactly the best team I could've thought they'd bring.
Cofidis, Solutions Credits
After an ilness-marked Tour Cofidis is looking to regain the quality of previously in the season, and they have quite some quality to show that off with a big amount of climbers coming in. The Herrada brothers for a start, Jesus has had an impressive season but it looked as if fatigue was settling in during the Tour, however he has led the race here last season and as home race he may be able to pull something off again. There's Nicolas Edet who is one of the jokers for the mountains, has been climbing quite well this season, John Atapuma and Jesper Hansen as further depth for the terrain. Closing out the squad is Damien Touzé and the engine Stephane Rossetto.
Euskadi Basque Country - Murias
My favourite team here, I'll say it right away! The Basque team, they are one of the teams that focus the most on this race and I've looked at how Mikel Bizkarra has prepared for the race and I have to say I'm cheering for him more than anyone likely. 17th last year, alongside Oscar Rodrigues who took a maiden win and sems to be coming in with brilliant form after a second place overall in Burgos, it looks as if the team is stronger than ever. Hector Saez is coming from a win in Portugal whilst Cyril Barthe has been having a strong season in the punchy finishes, solid choices for breakaways, Fernandó Barcelo is a talented climber also with potential to show themselves well, Sergio Samitier should also be visible in those hard stages and Mikel Iturria rounds up the squads.
Burgos - BH
Burgos is another team that's been having a hard season, result haven't come but Jesus Ezquerra was leading the Vuelta a Aragon until he crashes out, so bad luck has had a role. However in home roads they should feel at ease, in him, Angel Madrazo, Diego Rubio and Jetse Bol there are good stage win options, as all of them deal well with the rolling terrain and chances will surely come aplenty. Ricardo Vilela and Nuno Bico lead the Portuguese charge, a climber and a rouleur in their own rights who will look for opportunities and will Óscar Cabedo and Jorge Cubero.
Caja Rural - Seguros RGA
And the final team on the list is Caja Rural, and this one is actually a really good one if you look into it in detail. As leading there are two sprinters, very punchy sprinters, Jon Aberasturi and Alex Aranburu, together they have 5 wins this season and all of them have been in particularly hilly stages, but they not only include flat sprints, also hilltop finishes including a 1-2 solo. Both of these riders fit the punchy finishes perfectly and will be a good addition to these uncertain stages. They will have Domingos Gonçalves as support as a similar rider, just less explosive, Jonathan Lastra and Gonzalo Serrano have been both having great season also as puncheurs whilst for the mountains the team has three riders that are also worth a bit of attention, in Sergio Pardilla, Sergei Chernetski and Cristian Rodriguez, a lot of climbing power to complete a team that may be a surprise in this race.
⭐ Bora, EF, UAE
But with Movistar's track record and a familiarly strong team full of individual and collective strenght, I have no doubt they will take this classification again.
Overall Preview: https://www.echelonshub.com/post/vuelta-a-españa-overall-preview
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